Research Debunks Notion That Epidurals Delay Labor

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By Mary Elizabeth Dallas

HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Oct. 10, 2017 (HealthDay Information) — Epidurals are a preferred type of ache management for ladies throughout labor, however they’ve lengthy been blamed for hindering progress within the supply room.

Nevertheless, new analysis challenges this extensively held perception, suggesting that epidurals haven’t any impact on how lengthy labor lasts — or when infants are born.

“We discovered that exchanging the epidural anesthetic with a [non-drug] saline placebo made no distinction within the length of the second stage of labor,” stated examine lead researcher Dr. Philip Hess. He directs obstetric anesthesia at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Heart in Boston.

Dr. Jennifer Wu, an ob/gyn who reviewed the brand new findings, stated there are “necessary facets to this examine.”

Use of “low-dose epidurals versus placebos throughout the pushing stage of labor didn’t improve length of pushing” or the necessity for a C-section, stated Wu, who works at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York Metropolis.

Because the examine authors defined, epidurals contain a mixture of robust painkillers and anesthetics delivered via a tube positioned close to the nerves of the backbone. However since their introduction within the 1970s, epidurals have been thought by some to gradual labor as soon as the cervix is totally dilated — a interval often known as the second stage of labor.

When this stage of labor is extended and the beginning of a child is delayed, the chance for issues additionally rises. Consequently, some medical doctors might cut back or stop epidural ache administration in an try to hurry up supply.

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However do epidurals actually delay labor? Wu stated that generally it may possibly appear that technique to sufferers.

“Sufferers usually cite longer pushing as a cause they’re attempting to keep away from epidural,” she defined. “The issue for these sufferers is that there could also be many hours of contractions — and lack of sleep — earlier than they even get to the second stage or the ‘pushing’ stage. So, when sufferers are too numb to push successfully, medical doctors usually cite this as a cause to show down epidural.”

However, after all, reductions in epidural ache aid can imply extra discomfort for the girl, Wu famous. It is a “delicate stability,” she stated.


Within the new examine, the Boston staff in contrast the results of low-dose epidural to an ineffective saline resolution placebo, each of which have been delivered via a catheter.

The examine concerned 400 wholesome girls delivering their first child. These first-time moms acquired epidurals throughout the early stage of labor. However as soon as they reached the second stage, they have been randomly assigned to obtain both the epidural or the placebo, Hess defined.

The examine was double-blinded, which means that neither the ladies nor the medical doctors knew whether or not they acquired the epidural or the saline resolution. Nevertheless, girls in excessive, extreme ache have been knowingly given ache medicine as directed by their medical doctors. The medical doctors might additionally cease epidural ache management at any time.

Through the examine, the researchers tracked the length of labor in addition to the well being and well-being of the ladies’s infants, equivalent to beginning weight and blood oxygen ranges. The investigators additionally in contrast the ladies’s stories of ache and satisfaction with their ache administration.

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The examine, revealed Oct. 10 in Obstetrics & Gynecology, discovered epidurals had no impact on the length of the second stage of labor. The anesthesia additionally had no impression on the speed of regular vaginal deliveries, the variety of episiotomies [surgical cuts to ease delivery], the place of the fetus at beginning or some other measure used to evaluate the well-being of a child throughout supply.

The length and outcomes of labor have been comparable for each teams of girls. The second stage of labor was about 52 minutes for ladies given energetic ache medicine in comparison with about 51 minutes for ladies who acquired saline, the analysis staff famous.

Citing gradual development of labor, medical doctors have been requested to cease epidural ache management for 38 sufferers. However the researchers discovered that this occurred at about the identical charge for ladies receiving the epidural as for ladies who acquired the saline.

Alternatively, “twice as many ladies given the placebo reported decrease satisfaction with their ache aid in comparison with these supplied the [epidural] anesthetic,” Hess stated.

Dr. Mitchell Kramer is chair of obstetrics and gynecology at Huntington Hospital in Huntington, N.Y. Reviewing the brand new examine, he stated its findings are in step with these of prior research. However he additionally agreed with Wu that it is usually robust to stability ache aid with the necessity to keep away from numbness throughout labor.


“If there’s vital ache block, whereby the affected person can not really feel contractions in any respect or can not transfer their legs to help within the pushing course of throughout the second stage of labor, this will pose an issue throughout this stage,” Kramer defined.

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“Steadily, the quantity of anesthetic medicine being infused will probably be decreased, not turned off, to permit some feeling and/or motion to help within the pushing efforts,” he stated.

In keeping with Kramer, the Boston examine exhibits that epidurals are largely useful, so “we will reassure our sufferers that we will maintain them snug and but not jeopardize or delay the labor.”

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